What To Do When You Receive an Internship Offer

So you found, applied for, and interviewed for some summer internships. And after a little bit of a wait, you receive the call you’ve been hoping for: You are offered an internship!

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For many students, receiving an internship offer is the first major employment offer experience. How do you handle the process? Here are some tips:

  1. Take your time. Can you ask for time to think about the offer? Yes, you can. However, understand that there are limits. Can you have weeks to think about it? No. A few days? Sure. Here is an example of how to ask for some time: “Thank you for the internship offer. I am excited about the opportunity to work at _______. This is an important decision, and I would like more time to consider the offer. When do you need an answer by?”
  2. Get all of the details. When would you be expected to start working? Is the internship paid or unpaid? Consider your own details, too. Do you have vacations plans already in place for which you would need time off from work? What costs might you personally incur for the internship, such as the cost of commuting? Before you say yes, you want to have all of the details ironed out. If the date the employer would like you to begin is before the end of the semester, negotiate a slightly later start date. If you need time off for a planned vacation, clear this now and not at the last minute. If it’s an unpaid internship that you will cost you in terms of commuting, could the organization provide you a lunch stipend to offset the cost?
  3. Evaluate the internship. Ideally, you focused your applications on internships you really wanted. It’s still likely that there were certain opportunities that you were more excited for than others. Take a step back and reevaluate the opportunity that is being offered to you in relation to your goals for an internship:
    1. Is this the work you want to do? Look at the job functions again and assess how the internship will fit into your overall career goals.
    2. Will you have the opportunity to work on challenging projects and build upon your skills and strengths? Would you enjoy the work?
    3. Do you like the organization? When you visited for your interview, did you feel like the work environment was a good “fit” for you?
    4. Are there any perks or future opportunities with this position?
  4. Accept or decline the offer. Make your final decision and get back to the employer in a timely manner. Speak directly with your contact at the organization. Don’t leave a voicemail for this type of message. Follow up with a written confirmation via email.

Once you accept an internship offer, contact any other organizations with which you applied to let them know that you have accepted an internship and would like to withdraw your name from their candidate pool. Understand that it is unethical for you to continue interviewing after accepting an internship offer, and you risk damaging your professional reputation if you renege (i.e. change your mind and turn down the internship after already accepting the position). Stay firm in your decision.

The more common concern students have is receiving an offer for one internship while still waiting to hear from their top choice opportunity. In this case, inform the organization offering you an internship that you are wrapping up the recruiting process and that you hope to make your decision by a specific date. Keep that date within one week. It isn’t fair to string them along and delay their process, especially if there is a strong chance that you may decline. Plus, anything more than a week will definitely tell them that their opportunity is not your first choice.

Follow up with your top choice employer to see if they have made a decision. Let them know that you have received another offer, but that their opportunity is your first choice. While this may speed up their process if you are their top candidate, be prepared for the employer to tell you that they will not have a decision made by the time you need it. When this happens, it’s difficult decision time.

Do you have any concerns when it comes to accepting or declining an internship opportunity? What seems to be the trickiest part of the process?